In This Review

A History of Saudi Arabia
A History of Saudi Arabia
By Madawi al-Rasheed
Cambridge University Press, 2002, 255 pp

An anthropologist, Al-Rasheed has relied on the many Arabic and Western studies available to offer this up-to-date study of Saudi Arabia. Her account steers clear of both the overly heroic and the overly hostile. She brings out well the close Saudi ties from earliest days, first with the United Kingdom and then America. She treats Ibn Saud's matrimonial politics and what might be dubbed the "Arabian style" of leadership used by him and his successors while paying attention to the regional distinctions within Saudi Arabia and the situation of the Shi`a minority concentrated in the oil-producing eastern region. There is also a good description of the dynasty's religious extremists who were crushed in the 1920s (but whose ideological heirs thrive today), but she offers only a single reference to Osama bin Laden. A concluding chapter treats the writings, speeches, and celebrations that figure in the Saudi effort to create a favorable image and the counternarratives of Saudi dissidents.